#NewRelease – Shattered Lives @sasspip

I am excited to turn my blog over to Sarah Stuart today and let her tell you about her new thriller, Shattered Lives!

Thank you for hosting me today, Jan. There’s a lot to be said for crossing the pond “on a magic carpet” in these difficult times. I’m here to launch my first crime thriller, Shattered Lives, and the first thing I want to say is it is true escapism. I’ve ignored Covid19 – in the book! I am double-jabbed, and crossing my fingers, in reality.

Escapism with a serial killer? Maybe. This is a five-star Amazon review.

Callianne: A Very Different “Killer-Thriller”!

I loved the way the first murder happened right at the start, though it’s scary being inside the mind of a psychopath. Shattered Lives has a complex plot, and knowing who the killer was, and his real target made it truly enthralling.

Blurb

Ralph Thyme, an addicted gambler, and his wealthy grandmother’s only acknowledged heir, discovers he has an elder sister, Olivia, who was sold at birth. Suppose Olivia discovers her true identity and claims half the inheritance he craves? How far will he go to eliminate the threat?

Olivia escaped childhood sexual abuse. Despite horrific memories, nightmares, and fear, she is determined to save a stranger’s little girl from the same fate, and the solution she offers takes all her courage… and then some.

DCI Croft investigates a heinous case of rape, murder, and mutilation. Next to die, are a private detective and his pretty daughter… and then another woman… and another. Can DCI Croft identify and capture a psychopathic killer hell-bent on eliminating anyone who stands in his way before he murders his sister… or is it already too late for Olivia?

Excerpt featuring the serial killer.

Ralph was bored and frustrated; Sykes Gambling Club was closed for the installation of new machines, and he had problems to solve before he killed again. He wandered out into the garden. It would all be his soon, and when it was, he’d have a fully-glazed shelter built at the highest point – what the fuck were two of the gardeners doing?

‘Hold it higher than that, Lofty.’

‘Sod yer, I kent ’elp bein’ short. What’s this ’ere trellis for anyroad? This ’ere fence ’ides the rubbish bins from the windas.’

‘It’s a new support to train Sweet Pea plants. Dame Edith likes the flowers for the house.’

‘In autumn? Pull t’other one.’

‘Lift up, blast it, and keep it still while I tie it in place.’

He stopped listening. If Ralph Thyme wanted to keep a girl’s wrists together, those ties would do the trick. He approached quietly and grabbed a handful. If the men ran out, so what? Grandmother wasn’t coming home to stink the place out with flowers.

Back indoors, smugness faded. He’d seen how the ties were used, but he hadn’t expected them to be so stiff. No woman would hold her wrists together and wait! Then there was the hooker who’d screamed. Suppose one of the slags in the flat below had taken a night off and heard her? Would a scarf make a good gag? November had arrived with cold winds, so a woman wouldn’t be spooked by him wearing one. He pulled a selection out of his drawer. How much sound would penetrate cashmere? Was wool the best material? He opened drawers where some of Grandmother’s clothes were still stored. Useless female colours… except one.

Kicking his bedroom door closed, he scowled. He still didn’t know which to choose. He could try it on himself and bellow loudly – and have Mrs. Sharnbrook overhear if it didn’t work and send men to disable a mythical attacker? He could wait until she went out…

Mrs. Sharnbrook shopped personally sometimes, but the house was never empty and choosing an innocent item that worked as a gag was urgent. His cock gave him no peace and his hands itched to kill. He was holding scarves against the light to assess their density when Candice walked in with coffee.

‘Shall I ask Auntie to turn up the radiator thingy, sir?’

Trust Candice not to remember it was called a thermostat. The half-wit would forget him experimenting on her with scarves; if she did and said anything, nobody would believe her. It was risky, putting his hands near that long slender neck.

‘Sir, I could light the fire.’

Drivel, drivel! It was her life on the line unless he got satisfaction elsewhere. ‘I’m not cold now, Candice. I’m trying to decide which scarf is the warmest for when I go out.’

‘They all look warm, sir. I haven’t got a scarf, but I only go to the bins with rubbish.’

‘You shall choose one of mine if you help me with an experiment, Candice.’

‘Ooh, yes, sir. What’s an experiment?’

‘A way of –’ she wouldn’t understand “establishing facts” – ‘finding out something. If I tie a scarf over your mouth, and you shout, I’ll know which one is the thickest.’

Candice still looked baffled. ‘Yes, sir.’

The first two scarves allowed him to hear “is that right, sir”. He said nothing, so she was sure to have shouted louder, and the third scarf smothered her words. ‘Well done, Candice. Now, which scarf would you like?’

She pointed at the purple one that belonged to Grandmother. ‘That one, please, sir.’

It wouldn’t be missed by its owner, but it might be noticed. ‘Tell Auntie that Dame Edith said I could give it to you, or you’ll be in trouble.’

Candice shivered. ‘Yes, sir, I will.’

The half-wit feared Auntie, but silence from a victim was assured. Using the ties must be done quickly, and he had a girl here to practise on, but he’d already rewarded her. ‘Candice, do you have nice warm gloves?’

‘No, sir. My hands get sore every winter.’

‘I could buy you a pair, but I’d need to know the right size and… and not everyone’s wrists are a pair.’

‘A pair, sir?’

God, this was difficult. ‘Hold out both hands close together.’

‘Like this, sir?’

‘Perfect, Candice. Now, keep very still while I use my special measuring gadget.’ It took him far too long to wrap it around her wrists and slip the pointed end into the hole. ‘Ah! I need to practise, or the gloves might not fit.’

‘It’s a queer looking thing, sir. Will it hurt if it gets tighter?’

‘I suppose it might, but I won’t let it.’ At his sixth attempt, he applied one in a few seconds, and it locked. ‘Got it!’

‘Got what, sir?’

He pressed the tab and released her. ‘The correct size for your gloves.’

It was dark when he strolled down the steep hill to Garton North underground station debating whether to get off a train at a stop in Garton Central or travel on to Garton South. The second was where he’d found hookers, but he wanted a woman the Garton Gazette would write articles about, and half their readers probably thought hookers deserved anything they got, so another murdered would only get mentioned to up the victim count.

Amongst the crowd emerging from the station was a girl wearing a fur coat with a matching hat and gloves, and high-heeled shoes. Blonde hair flowed from beneath the hat and over her collar. She was perfect, and she was alone. Any second, a husband or father would arrive to pick her up; she was hovering almost on the kerb looking to her left.

He pretended to light a cigarette. She waited, tapping now and then at a mobile she produced from her handbag.

Another crowd of passengers swarmed from the station and took the waiting taxies. The girl stamped a foot, thrust the mobile into her pocket, and set off at a brisk walk. He followed, keeping to the opposite side of the road and watching for a darkened shop doorway deep enough to hide them both.

Five-Star Readers’ Favorite Review by Anne-Marie Reynolds

Shattered Lives by Sarah Stuart is a fascinating thriller that delves deep into two storylines: the mind of a psychopath and that of a sexual abuse survivor who must save another from the same fate to heal herself. It isn’t a story for younger readers or the faint-hearted: child sexual abuse, necrophilia, and graphic violence are just part of the substantial subject matter. This story delves into how a psychopath functions and what makes them tick, leading you down some dark paths through a truly twisted mind. It also guides you on a journey of discovery through the eyes of a child sex abuse survivor, more dark paths that eventually lead to the light. Shattered Lives is a gripping tale that will hold your heart in a vise while you read it, and it will have you turning the pages deep into the night.

Links


Shattered Lives is available as an eBook or in print. http://getbook.at/ShatteredLives

Website http://authorsarahstuart.com/

Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Stuart/e/B00MA9XLHI

And for other books from this author, take a look at her previous series!

Short Story Freebie! #ShortStory #Fiction #WritingCommunity #Brother’sKeeper

The idea for this story came to me from a casual conversation with a family member.

I’m sure most everyone knows my backstory, and that my late husband, Rick Sikes, was sentenced to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. So, in this conversation with a cousin, she said, “You know, I’ve often wondered if Bobby (Rick’s brother) really did the crime and Rick took the fall for him.”


While I know that isn’t a truth, it sparked a story idea and my imagination went into overdrive.

Then I had the story completely written, but wasn’t happy with the title I had chosen. I was riding in the car with my daughter, when we passed a pickup truck with a sticker plastered on the back window that read, Brother’s Keeper.
That was it! I could hardly contain my excitement. I see things like that as signs from the Universe or as nudges.
At that point, the story of Quentin Marks and his deadbeat brother, Rowdy was complete. None of the story is based on truth. It is a work of pure fiction.


My point here is to show how the creative process can work, and how it can take a tiny spark and ignite it into a flame. That spark and flame bring with them such an excitement that must be equal to skydiving or riding a bucking bronc. I don’t know because I haven’t done either of those things (nor do I intend to). But it’s an adrenaline rush and I am passionately in love with it.
If you haven’t read “Brother’s Keeper,” I hope you’ll pick up your free copy today!

Free March 10-14!

https://www.amazon.com/Brothers-Keeper-Beginning-International-Contest-ebook/dp/B08BXFLQ4V/

And, of course, I welcome a review after you’ve read Brother’s Keeper! Thank you and enjoy!

Reflection

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As I complete another trip around the sun, I am compelled to reflect back on a lot of things in life. I was born into a poor family in Hobbs, New Mexico on August 21, 1951. And that makes me exactly 66 years old.

From all accounts, I was a happy child. I had no idea we were poor until much later in life. My nickname in school was Smiley.

My sister, Linda, was (and is) my best friend in the world. Even at a very young age, I was holding her hand.

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I have a vague memory of the oxygen tanks that were delivered to our house on a regular basis because my Grandfather was dying of some sort of lung disease.

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All of my siblings were born in a tent. I was the only one born in a hospital. Mama and Daddy built the house I grew up in. They didn’t have contractors to come in and do the work. They did all of it and held down full-time jobs. I have a vivid memory of my short round little mama on the roof nailing down shingles.

But, I learned so much from both of them. I learned how to control my emotions from my daddy. He had a terrible temper and many times I dodged flying tools when he worked on one of our old cars. From my mom, I learned how to be strong in the face of adversity and how to never EVER give up.

When I was probably four years old, my mom decided to join a Pentecostal church. Daddy went along with it because he loved her, but I’m not convinced his heart was ever in it. So I was raised in a strict fear-based religion.

And I couldn’t wait to spread my wings and explore the world when I turned eighteen.

Jan 1970's  I had NO idea!

But, when I was nineteen, I met Rick Sikes. And, oh my! How I fell in love. And, so did he. It seemed destined to fail from the beginning. Not only was he sixteen years older than I, but he was a musician and band leader and no stranger to the Texas honky-tonk life. Nothing could be farther from a Pentecostal raising. 🙂

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And then…he was arrested on two counts of armed bank robbery and sentenced to 25 years and 50 years in prison. Not much hope of that love ever surviving.

But, it did and in 1985, we were married. Luke_Darlina_Wedding.JPG

And for the next 25 years, we did a lot of living! I learned how to play guitar and write songs and perform on stage with him.

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And then, his health began to fail. In 2003, he became confined to a wheelchair when he had to have his left leg amputated

Amputation.

But, we didn’t give up. We built a recording studio and recorded lots of our songs. Curious? You can see them all here.

And then on May 1st in 2009, he left me, to travel to the next world. I have so many memories and lots of regrets. There were so many things I could have done differently. But, once today is gone, there is no returning to it.

In 2011, I began the journey of writing our story, Rick’s and mine. It’s been a pretty incredible adventure and I have learned SO much since that first book, Flowers and Stone.

Many times, people ask me if I wrote all of these stories as a tribute to Rick and I quickly reply, “No.”  I wrote them because it was a story that begged to be told. It encompasses everything from passion, music, crime, redemption, second chances, more music, and mortality. My hope from telling these stories is that they might inspire someone else.

It’s been a helluva ride and I’m not getting off the horse just yet. 🙂

Thanks for letting me reflect a little. This poem I wrote many years ago pretty much sums it all up.  (Taken from the Poetry and Art book, DISCOVERY)

Comes the Dawn
After a while, you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul
You learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security
Eventually, you understand that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises
Then you start to accept your defeats
Head up and eyes open wide
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child
And learn to build your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
Futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight
After a while, you learn that even sunshine
Burns you if you get too much
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers
And you learn that you can endure
That you really are strong
You truly do have worth
And you learn and learn
With each goodbye – you learn

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Happy Birthday to me! AND, I get a Solar Eclipse for my birthday.

Http-www.jansikes.com

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Clyde Barrow – Happy Birthday

I have always had a fascination with outlaws. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker top my list. So, when John Fioravanti posted on his blog today that March 24th was Clyde’s birthday, I decided to tell some little known facts about him.

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Clyde’s middle name was Chestnut. (I’d love to know where that came from)

He was the fifth of seven children, born in a small close-knit farming community of Telico, Texas, just north of Ennis in Ellis County. It was said that the Barrow’s farm failed from drought and his father moved them to Dallas.

He was a small unassuming boy and attended school until sixteen.  He had ambitions to become a musician, playing guitar and saxophone.

He was first introduced to crime by his older brother with petty thievery, then advanced to stealing cars. By the time Clyde was 20, he was a wanted man and fugitive.

He met a nineteen-year-old waitress, Bonnie Parker in 1930 and it is said that he was immediately smitten.

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But, their romance was interrupted by Clyde’s arrest and prison conviction. (Sounds like a similar story – one I wrote)

Bonnie smuggled a gun into prison to Clyde during a visit and he made an unsuccessful escape attempt. When he was released in 1932, they began their crime spree that would last only a mere two years before they were both killed.

They were known as a friend to the poor and many harbored them over the two years they robbed and killed.

What they did was irrefutably wrong on every level, but there is no question as to their love for each other and maybe that is the part of the story that pulls me in. After all, I am a hopeless romantic. Thanks for stirring the pot, John F.!

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